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Black Diamond Ahwahnee Review

   

Four Season Tents

  • Currently 3.6/5
Overall avg rating 3.6 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: December 17, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $650 - $660 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Spacious, easy to sit up.
Cons:  Heavy, awnings catch wind, poor ventilation, cross pole is hard to insert, zippers are hard to close, doors get in the way when open.
Best Uses:  None.
User Rating:     
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 (4.5 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Max Neale ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 18, 2013  
Overview
We don't recommend the Ahwahnee to anyone for any application. It is our lowest rated four season tent tested. If you are going to invest in a tent you money will go much father elsewhere.

See our complete Four Season Tent Review to compare the 24 models tested. Also consider a floorless tent—our testers’ favorite type of shelter for 99% of fast and light trips—found in our Ultralight Tent Review.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Note, the text below has not been updated since we expanded our four season tent review from the original 13 models tested throughout 2010 and 2010 to the 24 models now included, after testing throughout 2012 and 2013.

Likes
Of all the 13 tents reviewed here the Ahwanee has the most headroom. Two six-foot people can sit up with ease, face each other, and hang out. The Ahwahnee is wonderfully comfortable.

The tent has two poles that cross corner-to-corner and cross once in the center. A third half-length pole supports two awnings that provide cover for ventilation in foul weather. The interior floor is 33 sq. ft., and provides more than adequate space for two. Two large half moon shaped doors give each person their own entrance. This is the tent’s greatest selling point.

The Ahwahnee is designed to be a versatile year round tent for everything from summer backpacking, fall base camping, to winter mountaineering.

Dislikes
The Ahwahnee scored quite low when compared to the other 12 four-season tents reviewed here. The pole design is its greatest downfall. The cross pole is very hard to insert and creates two large awnings that collect wind like spinnakers. This design is ill suited to high winds. Furthermore, there are no vents. Unzipping the tops of the doors is the only way to manage condensation. Breathable ToddTex fabric makes this semi-successful, but other single wall models such as the Marmot Alpinist and Mountain Hardwear EV2 have actual vents that combat condensation with greater success.

While we like that the Ahwahnee is more livable than the Black Diamond Eldordao, we detest its door design, which when opened, leaves the doors either in the dirt or in the tent. (There is no such thing as easy access with a half moon door.) You must open the zipper at least three-quarters of the way to get in. But then you risk damaging the zipper. Properly opening the door involves fully opening the zipper, rolling the door in a tight bundle, and clasping it to the bottom. This process is time consuming and can be a messy disaster when the ground is wet and dirty, or if it’s raining. To make things worse, the door zippers are unnecessarily hard to open and close. This is due to the tight fitting awnings, which wrap down around the door; there is little space for your hand between the awning and the tent walls. We much prefer doors that unzip in a right facing arc. The doors on both the Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu, which nearly zip off, and stuff into a pocket, are ideal.

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The Black Diamond Ahwahnee's poles attach with difficult plastic twist ties.
Credit: Max Neale
While all Bibler tents pitch from within, we greatly favor those that pitch from the outside. There are many advantages to an external pitch: increased storm protection (rain and snow will not get in the tent), increased durability (you can’t accidentally send the pole through the tent wall), and ease of setup (crawling inside to fasten clips is more difficult than standing up outside). Because most four-season tents will have some snow and ice in them, at least on multi-day trips, the most serious of these issues is durability. Pitching a tent in very strong winds is challenging enough. Adding another element, inserting sharp poles into small snaps, is simply foolish. Yes, most people do it safely, but a simple error could puncture the tent wall and leave you with an expensive and time-consuming repair.

Another complaint, which was voiced by all testers, was the Ahwahnee’s small and flimsy plastic twist tie style pole clips. These are thin, hard to use, painful to twist, and simply bad. Black Diamond includes extra twist ties, which we suggest you carry because they do break. Cold weather makes the plastic more rigid and cold hands (you have to take your gloves off in order to use the ties) make them less than comfortable and sometimes painful. Black Diamond’s Firstlight and Nemo’s Moki (not reviewed here) both pitch from within, but use Velcro closures, which are far better than plastic ties. The Mountain Hardwear EV2, which pitches from the outside with burly plastic clips, is equally fast, yet much easier to set up than the Ahwahnee. The Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu, both of which use a combination of nylon sleeve and alternating clips, have, without question, our favorite pole attachment method.

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The Black Diamond Eldorado, Ahwahnee, and Fitzroy have small and difficult plastic twist tie clips.
Credit: Max Neale
The Ahwahnee has several minor drawbacks and annoyances. First, it has clunky metal zipper pulls, which are both hard to grab and noisy in the wind. These should be replaced with cord, which is easier to find in the dark, more comfortable to pull, and silent in strong winds. Second, the tent doesn’t come with enough line for all guy points. This is thoughtless. The cord is also low quality – it’s heavy, it stretches, and it absorbs water. Spectra lines with camming adjusters, such as those included with the Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu and North Face Mountain 25, would be a significant improvement. The stakes, too, could be improved. Black Diamond includes a reasonable quality Y-shaped aluminum stake, but it doesn’t have a hole in the top for a loop of cord. Other companies (MSR and Hilleberg, for example) have stronger stakes that come with a loop of cord that allows you to pull the stake out easily and find it in the snow, sand, or dirt.

Value
The Hilleberg Jannu is a much better tent. We suggest you pony up the extra cash and get it.

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The Black Diamond Ahwahnee's Awning.
Credit: Max Neale

Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 17, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.5)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 33%  (1)
4 star: 33%  (1)
3 star: 33%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Oct 22, 2013 - 10:05pm
Marmduk Passbarg · Climber · Seattle, WA
Forget the editor's reviews; if you use a tent in serious conditions and want a true 4-season tent, this is the Ferrari of your choices. It's one of the few tents without serious condensation problems in heavy rain or extreme cold — the toddtex fabric works wonders. Seriously. Most gear reviews can't even grasp how good this tent performs in adverse conditions., Also, it's a palace inside; I'm 6'4" and with another climber, with much of our gear inside, we still have space to (carefully) cook and sit upright without touching the tent walls. Finally, it's peachy grand in warm weather with the doors open and the net up. The reviewer complaint about vents? The doors form an arc, with the highest point near the top of the tent — a small unzipped opening ( say 2") on either side provides excellent venting. The reviewer complaint about wind? Put the tent up correctly with the short (cross-) axis facing the wind and alls good. The reviewer complaint about open doors flopping about? They don't, if you are using them correctly: roll your doors and secure them with the attached tie-downs if you are leaving them open — this is part of the beauty of the design and makes it a 4-season tent suitable for winter and summer. As for complaints about the cross-bar — you put it in first, before the long poles. It's a great tent. One of the best.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 17, 2013 - 12:08pm
John March · Kayaker · Durham
Have use an Awhahnee for a dozen years in all sorts of conditions and have been quite happy. For some reason, the reviewer seems to like tents he owns and to dislike the Ahwahnee. Not sure what the reasons are beyond the criticisms in the review, but the bad scores seem excessive relative to the comparison tent (the Tarra). As for the criticisms, I simply haven't had these problems. The ventilation is great, especially when using the tent in the summer; condensation isn't a problem even when cooking inside in the winter; have had the Ahwahnee in steady 60+ mph winds with higher gusts that destroyed North Face and MSR tents with no problem; setting up inside when it is raining hard is a real plus; and I've never had a problem with the zippers or entry/exit. It is easy to get in with the zipper partially unzipped and you can enter on either side, which makes managing wind a snap. The only complaint I have is with the twisties, which as pointed out have a tendency not to stay put but they really don't do much anyway so not a problem. While I used to do a lot of climbing and winter mountaineering, my primary activity these days is coastal sea kayaking some of it quite remote. This is a great tent for kayaking as weight isn't much of a concern. If I were looking to minimize weight I'd chose something else, but the spacious easy living Ahwanhee is a fabulous home when stuck in place because of the weather. Don't be misled by the review--there are a lot of great tents. This is one of them…

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond Ahwahnee
Credit: Black Diamond
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